One of the best trail races in the US is at Mt. Whitney
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How to Apply for And Secure Permits for Mount Whitney

Mount Whitney, the highest point in the continental, or lower 48 states, is a formidable opponent in the world of hiking.  Not only because it is one of the most challenging hikes in the U.S., but also because it is tricky and very competitive to actually reserve the right to hike this peak.  The very first step to hiking Mount Whitney, besides dreaming about it, is to learn how to secure permits for Mount Whitney!  Mount Whitney permits are not easy to snag, and there is a detailed, multi-step process that is largely dependent on luck.  There are certain things you can do though, to up your chances of attaining a Mount Whitney permit.  Follow this step by step guide for securing your own permit to hike Mt. Whitney!


How to get permits for Mount Whitney

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Securing Permits for Mount Whitney


Here’s what to expect from this guide:

  • Understanding the Quota Season
  • Establishing Your Own Hiking Window
  • Day Hike vs Multi Day Hike?
  • Navigating the Online Lottery System
  • Rules for Applying
  • Important Dates (including What’s New in 2024)


This guide to securing Mt. Whitney permits is firstly, geared to beginners.  Those that are not familiar with the Mount Whitney permit process.  


Secondly, this guide to obtaining Mt. Whitney hiking permits is solely going to focus on permits for hiking in the quota window, on the standard Mt. Whitney Trail, when the number of daily permits are limited.  This window is between May 1st – November 1st.  


*(November – April is non-quota season, when permits are unlimited.  You still have to secure a wilderness permit for these dates, but because they are unlimited, the lottery process does not apply.  This guide will not discuss hiking Mt. Whitney during non-quota season.  The ideal time to hike Mount Whitney is between May and November, especially for beginners, when the weather is more conducive, and these dates fall in the quota season). 



Steps to Snagging Mt. Whitney Hiking Permits


Overview of Steps:

  • Determine Your Hiking Window Before Applying (Preferred Date plus 10 Alternate Dates)
  • Decide Day Hike or Overnight Hike
  • Get to Know the Online Lottery System at
  • Know the Rules for Applying For and Claiming a Permit


The 1st step in securing permits for Mount Whitney, is to determine your own hiking window.  This guide will recommend hiking in the quota season, which is May 1st – November 1st.  Narrowing down your potential window from here requires a few more details.  


Before you narrow all the way down, keep in mind that when you enter the lottery for your Mount Whitney permit, you will choose your “first choice” preferred date, and then up to 10 alternate dates.  Your potential window, therefore, can be between 1-10 days.  (this is new to 2024, previously you could pick 15 alternate dates)


Figure out your preferred date, and then, if you wish, as many alternate days as you can, up to 10.  The more alternate dates you put in for, the better your chances.  If you can, I would recommend putting in all 10 dates.  


In order to figure out your preferred date, aside from personal factors such as travel arrangements, lodging, and work arrangements, the next thing to figure out is your experience level.  There is a chance of potential snow on the trail generally until around late June.  If you wish to avoid snow on the trail as much as possible, then July,  August, or early September dates may be preferable for you.  If you are comfortable with the potential of snow, then your window becomes a little wider.  


Also, consider how much time you will need to acclimate before hiking Mount Whitney (a highly recommended preparation step), and build in that time before your actual preferred date of hiking Mount Whitney.  For example, I give myself 3-4 days of acclimatization time, before my actual Mount Whitney hike date.


The 2nd step in securing permits for Mount Whitney, is deciding on a day hike or overnight backpacking trip.  These are your two choices.  I have a sister post on the basics of hiking Mt. Whitney, from a day hike and a backpacking perspective, to help determine your answer.  There are pros and cons to each.  


Pros and Cons of the Mt Whitney Hike



There are 100 day hiking permits for Mount Whitney awarded every day during quota season, and 60 overnight backpacking permits awarded daily.  So naturally, your odds of snagging a Mount Whitney permit are slightly better if you apply for a Mt. Whitney day permit.  However, before you do so, you need to consider your comfort level with the pros and cons of both day hiking Mt. Whitney, and overnight backpacking it.  


The pros of day hiking Mt. Whitney include a slight edge on securing a permit, and not having to hike with a pack full of overnight gear up the steep trail.  Also, camping on the higher altitude of the trail comes with potential setbacks.  For example, it could be a rough night of sleep if the conditions are gusty and the weather keeps you up.  


On the flip side though, the pros of overnight hiking is getting to split this arduous trek into two days.  This allows for rest, and being able to enjoy the hike longer, without having to feel pressured to rush.  You also have more time to acclimate by camping at a higher altitude, and a shorter summit push.  


You need to assess where you stand on this spectrum.  Do you have experience in making a day hike of this kind?  The average time needed to complete a day hike of Mt. Whitney is between 12-14 hours.  I was able to make the determination that I was ready to day hike Mt. Whitney after completing the Rim to Rim hike of the Grand Canyon about 6 months prior.  It is good to have some type of tangible measurement for making this call.  Either way you choose, you will certainly have to commit to a training plan for hiking Mt. WhitneyNo matter how you tackle it, it is a 21 mile hike, with 6,200 feet of elevation gain and over 14,000 feet tall!  


The 3rd step in securing permits for Mount Whitney is familiarizing yourself with the online lottery system, and the multiple steps involved in applying for a Mount Whitney permit.  Once you have your dates, and have decided on day hiking versus overnight hiking, then you are ready to get to know the lottery system for Mt. Whitney hiking permits.  


First, visit the website that manages the Mount Whitney permit lottery.  Next, familiarize yourself with the important dates, and finally, know the steps to applying for permits for Mount Whitney, in the correct order.


Home page for Mt Whitney lottery
Home page for the annual Mt Whitney lottery  (from 2023) on



The Mount Whitney lottery is managed by  This is the website you will want to use for applying for, and if you are lucky, obtaining a Mount Whitney permit.  Luckily, it does a pretty good job of walking you through the process and helping you keep track of important dates.  


Permits are applied for online only at, there are no phone sales.  At the time of submission, you will pay a $6 application fee.  (If you win, you will pay an additional $15 per person to accept your reservation).  


The zone where permits for Mount Whitney are necessary
Map of the Whitney Zone, where Mount Whitney permits are required for hiking during the quota season. Note that Lone Pine Lake is outside the zone, meaning you can hike up to Lone Pine Lake without a permit.



Here’s a few important things to note, provided by 


***A wilderness permit is required YEAR ROUND for day hiking or backpacking Mt. Whitney in the Whitney Zone.  However, it is only during quota season (May 1st – November 1st) when hikers have to win a permit through the annual lottery system.  


***Day use permits are only valid for ONE DAY – the day on your permit (midnight – midnight)!  You cannot reschedule.


***Consecutive day use permits are NOT allowed.


***Reservations cannot be resold or transferred.  


***You can NOT backpack Mt. Whitney overnight on a day use permit!


***Day use and overnight quotas have separate amounts awarded daily! (100 overnights and 60 day permits)


***You can apply for permits for Mount Whitney for a group, and group sizes are limited to 15 in a group (this applies year round), and you cannot combine groups on separate permits!


***If you are going as a group, your “designated leader” will submit the application for your group.  This is the individual who will need to pick up the permit(s) for the entire group prior to the hike, and will need to be present on the hike, carrying the permit on their person for the duration of the hike.  Group leader designation cannot be transferred, though an alternate can be designated at the time of application.  


***Submit ONE application per individual/group.  Groups or households that submit multiple applications will be rejected.  


***Once you submit your application for a Mount Whitney permit, you can NOT change: 

  • your entry date(s)
  • your permit type (day or overnight)
  • your leader and/or alternate leader
  • or an increase in group size.  


***Some changes are allowable after making an application, and these include: an overnight camp location, or a reduction in group size.  


***Submitting an application costs $6 per submitted reservation.  There are no refunds.  If you win, you will pay an additional $15 per person to claim your winning lottery reservation.  



Important Dates for Securing Permits for Mount Whitney



Below are important dates for the 2024 Mt Whitney lottery:


Important dates for securing a Mount Whitney permit
Important dates for securing a Mount Whitney permit in 2024


As you can see, the Mount Whitney lottery for permits opens on February 1st, and closes March 1st.  On March 15th, both winners and losers are notified via email of their status. You can also log into your account on March 15th and your status will be posted.


If you won a spot, you have until April 21st to confirm your winnings on your account, AND pay the fees for your reservation.  Fees are $15 per person, and can be paid online.  Do NOT forget this step, you have to pay for your permit by April 21st, or you will lose it!   


For those that were unsuccessful in winning a permit, remaining/unclaimed permits open on April 22nd, but as competitive and highly sought after as they are, do not count on any unclaimed permits.  However, there are the few lucky winners’ permits that go unclaimed (because maybe they forgot to pay!), do go up for grabs!  This is important for those looking for a second shot at getting a permit, because people forget to pay, claim, or cancel their permit.  These unclaimed dates are first come first serve, and reservable by web only.  And in case you are wondering, there are no walk up permits for Mt. Whitney.


The last step to actually holding your Mount Whitney permit in your hand, is to pick it up in person immediately prior to your actual hike at the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center in Lone Pine, California (the closest pickup location to Mount Whitney itself).  There are two other pickup locations also, at the White Mountain Ranger Station in Bishop, CA, and the Mono Basin Scenic Area Visitor Center near Lee Vining.  


You can pick up your Mount Whitney permit in person 1 – 14 days in advance of your hike.  The Inyo National Forest website provides in depth details regarding pickup, including an alternate print at home option that was utilized during the COVID pandemic, and is currently still available. (I recommend picking up in person, it is just part of the experience of hiking Mt Whitney! Plus, the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center has a cool gift shop, and I enjoyed my in person talk with the ranger there).


***During the COVID pandemic, check in for permits was done by phone or email, instead of in person at the Visitor Center.  Call or email the Visitor Center to confirm your reservation, up to 7 days in advance.  Your permit will then be emailed to you.  This permit, once emailed, must be printed out, signed by the group leader, and kept in the group leader’s possession for the entirety of the hike!  Reservations will be canceled if not checked in by the deadline.  As of August 2021, permits for hiking Mt. Whitney were allowed to be picked up in person or emailed, though in person was again preferrable.  


***The deadline for day permits is NOON the day prior, and the deadline for overnights is 10 am on the entry date.  If you do not pick up your permit by these deadlines, you will be considered a no show and will lose your permit!


So, you may be wandering, what are your actual odds of winning a Mt. Whitney lottery? 


In 2019, 84,000 people applied.  34% of group leaders were awarded Mount Whitney hiking permits.  in 2021, 25,000 applications were submitted for 108,500 individuals.  28% of group leaders were awarded the date of their choice, while 72% were unsuccessful.


I have applied four times personally.  Failed the first time, when I put in for a weekend, overnight date with a group of 3.  Won the 2nd time when I put in for a solo day hike, with a weekday preferred time, and 15 alternative weekdays.  Failed the third time, when I put in for a solo day hike with a weekday preferred time and 15 alternate dates.  And I’m currently waiting to find out about the 4th go!


Hiking Mount Whitney was one of the best outdoor experiences of my life, and a hike that was well deserved after hoping for a permit, and training for the actual climb itself.  If you have the chance, I would highly recommend answering the call to take on one of the toughest, most beautiful, and most rewarding hikes in the United States!  There is a reason I will continue to apply for a Mount Whitney permit every year!


If you are lucky enough to score a Mount Whitney permit, make sure to continue your preparations by checking out some of these helpful articles.



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